|Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man. - Leon Trotsky|
No. 99, 27 May 1991
BALTIC STATES FIVE MORE LITHUANIAN CUSTOMS POSTS BURNED. Radio Independent Lithuania reported May 25 that about 20 OMON troops from Latvia attacked and burned down five Lithuanian customs posts on the Latvian and Belorussian borders the previous night. The posts were at Kalviai in the Joniskis Raion, Salociai in the Pasvalys Raion, and Lavoriskes, Medininkai, and Sumskas in the Vilnius Raion. The same OMON troops carried out all the attacks, beating and robbing workers at the posts. Lithuanian parliament deputy Rasa Rastauskiene was visiting the Salociai post, which had been burned down the previous night during the attack, and her car was fired upon as she was leaving. All the customs posts have been reestablished. (Saulius Girnius) TWO MORE BORDER POSTS ATTACKED IN LATVIA? On May 24 TASS reported that earlier that day there was one more attack by OMON forces on a customs checkpoint in Latvia at the Latvian-Lithuanian border near Eleja. Unconfirmed reports to the RFE/RL Latvian service indicate that there was another attack on May 24 near Aluksne. Leningrad TV personality Aleksandr Nevzorov reportedly filmed the incident near Aluksne. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC LEADERS PROTEST BORDER POST ATTACKS. Following the recent OMON attacks on Baltic border posts Supreme Council chairmen--Arnold Ruutel of Estonia, Anatolijs Gorbunovs of Latvia, and Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania--appealed on May 25 to the international community "to resolutely protest the new acts of coercion perpetrated by the Soviet Union." They recalled the Soviet crackdowns in Vilnius and Riga in January and noted that these recent attacks are "a large-scale coordinated operation against all the Baltic States at one time." They said that "as long as attacks on people and facilities go on, it is impossible to take seriously assurances about the continuation of reform and the development of democracy in the Soviet Union," reported Radio Vilnius on May 26. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA PROTESTS BORDER INCIDENTS. The Estonian Foreign Ministry on May 24 issued a formal protest over last week's harrassment and beatings of Estonia's economic border guards. The statement, sent to RFE/RL, decried "provocational demonstrations of force" and called on the West "to intercede on our behalf" in order "to halt interference by the Soviet military in our internal affairs and to prevent the repetition of bloodshed in the Baltic states." (Riina Kionka) SOVIET RESPONSE TO LITHUANIAN PROTESTS. The Soviet authorities have responded to the many Lithuanian protests by asserting that they did not order the attacks. Radio Moscow on May 25 quoted MVD Minister Boriss Pugo as saying that he had no evidence that the MVD was involved in the attacks and that the Lithuanian and Latvian protests were "provocations" trying to aggravate the situation. Lithuanian Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila telephoned Pugo on May 25 only to be told that the border posts were illegal. Pugo, however, has sent a team to investigate the attacks. On May 24 RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin talked to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev about the raids, and Gorbachev told him that he did not know what was happening, but would instruct Pugo to find out, Western agencies reported May 25. (Saulius Girnius) VILNIUS POLICE DESERT TO OMON. On the night of May 23-24 eleven members of the Vilnius police, two of them officers, raided the Vilnius police ammunition warehouse and took away 40 automatic rifles, 11 pistols, 11,000 rounds of ammunition, and three jeeps, Radio Independent Lithuania reported on May 25. The stolen equipment was given to the Vilnius OMON. Telegrams demanding the return of the weapons and the cessation of OMON attacks on Lithuanian customs posts were sent on May 25 to USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev by Vagnorius and to the USSR Foreign Affairs Ministry by Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Algirdas Saudargas. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN-BELORUSSIAN PROTOCOL ON TWO DEATHS. The Lithuanian parliament bureau of information reported on May 25 that Lithuanian Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila and a representative of Belorussia has signed a joint protocol on May 24 dealing with the deaths of two persons on their borders on May 18 and 19. The protocol declared that the incidents were not "political conflicts" but "a tragedy resulting in two deaths." The procurators of the two republics recommended that the circumstances of the deaths should be investigated "thoroughly, carefully, and objectively." (Saulius Girnius) NEVZOROV SHOWS FILMED ATTACKS ON BALTIC BORDER POSTS. Western news agencies reported on May 25 and 26 that on the evening of May 24 Leningrad TV reporter Aleksandr Nevzorov showed footage of OMON forces roughing up Baltic border guards and setting fire to customs posts in Latvia and Lithuania. Nevzorov said that "soon all these checkpoints will be gone," and suggested that the Baltic States should give up their efforts to maintain the customs checkpoints at their borders. Since January Nevzorov has made several TV programs lauding the exploits of the OMON and denigrating Baltic efforts to regain independence. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIAN-SOVIET MEETING IN MOSCOW. On May 24 Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and Minister without Portfolio Aleksandras Abisala met in Moscow with Doguzhiev and Pugo. The meeting discussed the attacks on Lithuanian border posts and Pugo declared that the central authorities had not authorized the attacks that were taken "by local initiative." It was also decided that working groups on Lithuanian independence should meet next week and that an official meeting of the negotiating delegations should take place in the first half of June, the Lithuanian parliament bureau of information reported on May 25. (Saulius Girnius) LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP DISCUSSED. Ruta Saca-Marjasa, a Jewish activist and Latvian Supreme Council deputy, told Radio Riga on May 15 that though the deputies of the Ravnopravie faction oppose Latvia's independence, they are pushing for the adoption of a citizenship law. This paradoxical stand, she explained, stems from the anti-independence forces' wish to destabilize the situation in Latvia and undermine the authority of the government and legislature by encouraging public controversy. She said that debate of a citizenship law, however it is formulated, would at this time serve to divide rather than unite Latvia's multi-national population, since the pro-independence and anti-independence forces hold opposing views on key aspects of citizenship. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS PROGRESS ON UNION TREATY. The preparatory committee set up to work on the Union treaty met for more than 8 hours in Novo-Ogarevo outside Moscow May 25, Soviet media reported. The session was attended by Gorbachev, Yeltsin, the heads of state of seven other republics willing in principle to sign the Union treaty (the Uzbek president was absent because of natural disasters in his republic), and the former autonomous republics. Both Gorbachev and Yeltsin expressed satisfaction with the progress made, and said that an agreed draft should be ready in June for submission to the republican Supreme Soviets. Both made plain that what was envisaged was a federation and not a confederation. Yeltsin noted, however, that there was still disagreement on issues such as taxation, control of local defense industries, and who owns Russia's oil and gas reserves. (Ann Sheehy) USSR: "UNION OF SOVIET SOVEREIGN REPUBLICS". According to Yeltsin, it was agreed in principle to retain the present initials of the USSR but to substitute the word "sovereign" for the word "socialist." This was the title that was originally proposed, but the USSR Congress of People's Deputies insisted on retaining the word "socialist." It was also agreed that the treaty document would be entitled "Union of Sovereign States." This was a change Yeltsin had been demanding, but it appears to be one of form rather than substance. (Ann Sheehy) HOW FORMER AUTONOMOUS REPUBLICS WILL SIGN TREATY. The representatives of all the republics attending the meeting except Tatarstan agreed that the former autonomous republics would sign the Union treaty as part of the RSFSR and in alphabetical order after the RSFSR had signed. Yeltsin said that he would have further consultations with Tatarstan. He was afraid that if Tatarstan signed separately, the others would not sign the treaty. (Ann Sheehy) INDEPENDENCE-SEEKING REPUBLICS SET UP COORDINATING BODY. Delegates of popular movements from six republics seeking independence from the USSR conferred May 25 and 26 in Kishinev, local sources told RFE/RL by telephone. Initiated by the Moldavian Popular Front, the meeting was attended by delegates of Lithuania's Sajudis movement, the Popular Fronts of Estonia and Latvia, the Georgian Round Table, and the Pan-Armenian National Movement. The specially empowered delegates signed the founding documents of a coordinating body, the "Assembly of Popular Fronts and Movements from Republics Not Joining the Union Treaty," also to be known as the "Kishinev Forum" for short. The Forum intends to hold monthly meetings, rotating among the six republics, to enhance their cooperation and to coordinate political actions. (Vladimir Socor) KISHINEV FORUM ISSUES FOUNDING DOCUMENT. According to its programmatic document, the Kishinev Forum is based on the principles of the UN Charter, the right of peoples to self-determination as defined in UN resolutions on decolonization, and international covenants on human, civic, and political rights. The Forum considers that the Kremlin's refusal to allow the six republics to leave the Union threatens world peace. The signatory movements agree on the need to coordinate steps for more effective resistance to Moscow's use of economic blockades and military repression against independence-seeking republics. "Normalization of the situation in the USSR and stability in the world are impossible without recognition and observance of the rights of the republics which have chosen to set up independent states," the founding document said. (Vladimir Socor) KISHINEV FORUM PROTESTS SOVIET MILITARY REPRESSION. In separate telegrams addressed to Gorbachev and to UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Kishinev Forum protested the USSR's use of military force in the Baltic States and in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and the fanning of inter-ethnic conflict in Georgia by the center. It demanded legal prosecution of those responsible for the use of violence against civilians and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the six republics. The Kishinev Forum's documents were highlighted by Western agencies May 26 and 27 and were communicated by Moldavian sources to RFE/RL. (Vladimir Socor) MOISEEV ON ARMS CONTROL TALKS. General Mikhail Moiseev, who recently returned to Moscow after talks in Washington on clearing up remaining obstacles to CFE and START agreements, told Krasnaya zvezda of May 24 that the talks with American officials were "difficult, but useful." Still, a TASS summary the same day quoted Moiseev as charging that the US is dragging out the negotiations, and has even backed off from previously agreed positions. (Sallie Wise) NEW IMPETUS FOR POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN? There appears to be some diplomatic movement in the wake of Perez de Cuellar's appeal last week for political dialogue on Afghanistan. Riaz Mohammad Khan, a director general in Pakistan's foreign ministry, arrived in Moscow May 26 for talks with Soviet officials on a possible political settlement in Afghanistan, Western agencies reported that day. Khan, along with Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Akram Zaki, held consultations in Saudi Arabia and Iran last week before leaving for Moscow. Meanwhile, the US on May 25 called for all outside parties to the Afghan conflict to set an early date for stopping arms deliveries to Afghan combatants. (Sallie Wise) SOVIET BUDGET DEFICIT WORSENS. Official Soviet statistics published in Ekonomika i zhizn', No. 21 indicate that the gap between state incomes and expenditures continues to widen in the USSR. Planned income for the first quarter was about 55 billion rubles while only about 20 billion (36%) came in. This is in contrast to expenditures which are running at a rate of about 73% of plan (planned expenditures for the quarter were 61 billion rubles, while actual expenditures were about 47 billion). The total deficit of 27.1 billion rubles is 4.6 times the planned deficit for the quarter and 2.3 times the corresponding figure for 1990. (John Tedstrom) REPUBLICS WITHHOLDING FUNDS. The major reason for the shortfall in budget revenues is that republican and local budgets are 1) granting tax breaks on two major all-Union income sources: the profit tax and the sales tax and 2) falling short on the agreed amount of transfers to the all-Union budget to finance Union-wide programs. All-Union incomes from the profit and sales taxes totalled only 31% and 6% of plan for the quarter, respectively, and republican transfers to the all-Union budget total roughly 57%. (John Tedstrom) PRODUCTIVITY IN SOVIET AGRICULTURE DISMAL. The Soviet press has reported labor productivity statistics in agriculture by country, and the USSR comes out at the bottom of the list. Argumenty i fakty, No. 16 reports OECD figures that show agricultural labor productivity in the USSR at just 9% of the US level, and 20% of the overall OECD level. The calculations are based on purchasing-power parities and not on the official Soviet exchange rate. (John Tedstrom) PAVLOV'S WELTANSCHAUUNG. In an interview with Ogonek (no. 17), Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov discussed his government's long-term plans. He said he supports the agrarian reform launched by the RSFSR government and endorses destatization of state property. This does not, however, apply to private ownership of land, which he views as owned in common by all the people. Pavlov called for the spiritual revival of Russia "as the USSR is called in the West even today." He said the national revival might be inspired by what he called "Russian cosmism", i.e., a synthesis of religion, art, and science introduced by Russian philosophers such as Vladimir Vernadsky and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. In many instances, Pavlov echoed the ideas of political scientist Sergei Kurginyan. (Victor Yasmann) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS RSFSR CPD TURNS DOWN LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Yeltsin supporters in the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies suffered a serious setback May 25 when conservatives voted down a proposed law on a republican Constititutional Court (Russian TV, May 25 and 26). The law would entitle the RSFSR President to dismiss local executives if the RSFSR Constitutional Court found them guilty of violating Russian Federation laws (thereby reining in many regional leaders in the Party nomenklatura who sabotage pro-market reforms.) The members of the CC are supposed to be nominated by the chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. The decision to postpone the law on the Constitutional Court until the next RSFSR CPD (to be held in June, following the election of the RSFSR President) means that its members will not be nominated by Yeltsin if he is elected President. (Julia Wishnevsky) KHASBULATOV ON UNION AND RSFSR FEDERAL TREATIES. RSFSR Supreme Soviet first deputy chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov reported to the Russian parliament on May 25 on work on the Union and RSFSR federal treaties, TASS and Russian TV reported. Khasbulatov noted progress on the Union treaty. As regards the federal treaty, he spoke of the dangers of the process of "confederalization" taking place in the Russian republic and warned that it could wreck the whole Union. In this connection he noted the seriousness of the situation with regard to Tatarstan, and called on deputies to decide questions of national-state structure from positions of "healthy conservatism." (Ann Sheehy) CONSERVATIVE GROUP CREATED IN RSFSR PARLIAMENT. A new conservative group has been set up in the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. Army Lieutenant-General Boris Tarasov, considered a hardliner, told independent Moscow journalist Mark Deich that the group will be similar to the conservative "Soyuz" faction in the USSR parliament. Deich told RFE/RL by telephone from Moscow on May 24 that the group is to be called "Otchizna" (Fatherland) and will concern itself with the questions of Russian sovereignty and integrity. The group has not yet been officially registered, but Deich said more than 150 members of the RSFSR parliament have already joined it. (RL Russian Service/NCA/Jean Riollot) RYZHKOV OPPOSED TO WESTERN CREDITS. Addressing a political rally in Smolensk, former Soviet Prime Minister and candidate for RSFSR president Nikolai Ryzhkov said that the USSR must find its own way out of its crisis and should not look to the West for credits, according to Western sources May 25. He also expressed his opposition to privatization of housing and abolition of state subsidies. He believes these measures will lead to massive unemployment and labor unrest. Ryzhkov wants RSFSR economic policy to be guided by professional economic managers and not by Western experts. (John Tedstrom) POPOV TO RUN AS MAYOR OF MOSCOW. Gavriil Popov has announced his intention of running for the post of mayor of Moscow, TASS announced on May 24. This is a new post, intended to be considerably more powerful than that of chairman of the Moscow city soviet, which Popov presently holds. Until last year, the chairman of the soviet was a figurehead, elected by the deputies to the soviet while real power was exercised by the local Communist Party. All that is now set to change on June 12 when the mayors of Moscow and Leningrad will, like the new president of the RSFSR, be elected for the first time by direct, popular ballot. (Elizabeth Teague) RSFSR TO ESTABLISH FREE TRADE ZONES. The RSFSR government has decided to designate Leningrad and Vyborg free trade zones, according to Radio Mayak, May 24. The zones will have lower tax rates and other benefits for joint ventures. Yeltsin made the decision after the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies granted him broadened powers last month. Leningrad city soviet chairman Anatolii Sobchak hopes that ethnic Germans will move to the area to set up businesses, especially in agriculture. He hopes that cooperation with German businesses can develop via the trade zone arrangement and plans to establish a "German Business Center" in the second half of the year. Sobchak plans to establish an independent banking system in order to finance the new ventures, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 25. (NCA/John Tedstrom) GEORGIA ELECTS A PRESIDENT... Initial returns indicate that acting president Zviad Gamskahurdia polled between 70% and 90% of the vote in some Tbilisi constituencies in the May 26 Georgian Presidential elections. International observers say there was no evidence of malpractice at those very few polling stations in Tbilisi which they monitored; Gamsakhurdia's main rival, Valerian Advadze, predicted that the vote would be rigged, that Gamsakhurdia would initiate reprisals against himself and other rivals, and that Gamsakhurdia would face a rebellion within six months if he did not change his political course. There was no voting in the disputed oblast of South Ossetia or in Abkhazia, Western agencies reported May 27. (Liz Fuller) AND GOD HELP THOSE WHO SLANDER HIM. On May 22 the Georgian parliament approved a law prohibiting any criticism or slander that maligns "the honor and dignity" of the elected president. Individuals convicted face a six-year jail term; the media will have to pay a 25,000-ruble fine, TASS reports. (Liz Fuller) MORE DEATHS IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH. TASS reported May 24 that three people were killed in an exchange of fire between USSR security forces and armed gunmen when the latter attacked an Armenian village in Gadrut raion in the south of Nagorno- Karabakh the previous night. Western agencies May 26 reported that five Armenians were killed May 24 by Soviet troops in a clash in Azerbaijan's Shaumyan raion. (Liz Fuller) CONTROVERSY OVER UKRAINIAN CARDINAL. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivs'kyi was prevented from conducting a mass in Kiev's St. Andrew's church, Western news agencies reported May 26. Several hundred Russian Orthodox protesters blocked the entrance to the church, jeering the Ukrainian cardinal. Kiev city officials had given their approval for the church service. Later, the service was conducted in another church in the Ukrainian capital. (Roman Solchanyk) IAEA REPORT CHALLENGED. A study released May 22 by the International Atomic Energy Agency on the consequences of Chernobyl' has been contested by the Soviet mission to the United Nations and charitable organizations. The study maintains there is no evidence of widespread leukemia or thyroid illnesses related to the accident and concludes that long-term protective measures taken by the Soviets are more than adequate. The Soviet mission took issue with the IAEA assessment at a May 23 press conference in New York, while officials have reportedly protested to Margaret Anstee, coordinator of UN Chernobyl aid programs, that report compilers were given inaccurate information. (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko) PROTEST AT INTERNATIONAL CHERNOBYL CONFERENCE. Speaking May 23 at a Chernobyl conference in Vienna, scientists from Ukraine and Belorussia attacked the IAEA report as seriously flawed and overly optimistic. They said the IAEA had failed to study clean-up workers and evacuees, the groups most at risk, and raised many other objections to the report. The IAEA findings were defended by Leonid Il'in, chairman of the USSR commission on radiological safety and a primary opponent of groups studying the impact of Chernobyl. Scientists in Kiev and Minsk have roundly criticized the IAEA in past years for conducting its own self-interested coverup of the accident's consequences. (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko)
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